It was the teenage party of the century. All dark with flashing lights and everyone looked like monochrome fairies, jewellery glinting in the black-light. Hedonistic, nihilistic and delicious, Carly wanted this party – her party - to be remembered, and memorable it proved to be. Especially for Carly.

She made her presence known, dancing to the thumping beats among the vodka and the murmurings and the strobe, black and white so she could be classy and a little edgy at the same time. Cute Rock Chick, her friends called it, oh so in this season. She held her glass of vodka high above her head, dancing and cheering between about three boys and six girls, none of whom knew who she was and vice versa.

Between all the half-drunk half-faces yelling 'Hey Corey! Great Party!', all the mirth and the madness, there was a boy across the room and, to Carly, he had 'next conquest' shining out of his jaded green eyes.

He wasn't dancing; he was just stood there with a drink his hand and a dissatisfied curl of his lip, talking to another boy who looked older and equally dissatisfied with a hint of amusement the pretty boy didn't share. His rough, angry and thoroughly mature aura screamed 'challenge' and her mind was already buzzing with possibilities, propositions and positions. A boy, a university boy, a pretty university boy was at her house party and she was going to take full advantage of the fact.

Up until now sex had been cheap fun and meaningless but now it could be cheap, fun and have a purpose save for just finding something to do, pun intended. This was it, he was it, her chance to make this party exactly what she wanted it to be. The party of the year, the one everyone is still talking about from now to summer and beyond. With all the lights, all the booze, the biggest house and the hot university guy that turned up to a year 13 party expecting nothing, and was bagged by the hostess. Everyone will know Carly's name after this.

She looked to her friends - or so they were for the night - for support and conformation that he was, in fact, gorgeous, promised one of the girls the older boy, and danced her way across the room to say hello.

"Hi there," Carly smiled as she arrived next to the boys, fluttering her extra-long fake eyelashes at them. "Thanks for coming to my party, you guys enjoying yourselves?"

There was a long pause where the boys were just staring at her, a small hint of disgust in his eyes growing and slowly contorting his face into something between horror and anger.

"No way this way! Are you serious?!" the older boy almost spat and she was taken aback by the outburst and strange familiarity of the voice. A familiarity that made her shiver and want to either cry or hide.

"Excuse me?" she tried to laugh off the dread rising in her stomach the more she looked at these two boys.

"I thought I knew you when I saw you over there Carl'," he laughed. "But I had no idea you were, like, a whore now."

Carly felt realisation like the sickening crack of a broken bone that deafened her as well as sent a searing pain through her body. She knew who it was she was talking to now, the ghosts of her past come back to haunt her in some sick twist of fate.

"Okay look, I just…I didn't know it was you two okay," she whispered, lest flirtatious now and more urgent. "Just...keep having fun and we can catch up later, okay?"

"So, this is who you are now? Two

years without so much as a 'I'm cutting you out of my life' and you don't have the decency to say hello or goodbye?"

Carly froze mid spin in the opposite direction and didn't say a word, but her eyes were shining so she flicked her long dyed black hair to cover her face. It was the younger boy talking now. The beautiful boy who she knew the best and would have recognised in an instant if she hadn't been drunk and too eager to find a good fuck.

No, no doubting herself any more. Carly turned back, full of fury and ready to answer back but the boy, William, beat her to it.

"What were you going to do? Dance with me? Make out with me? Take me up to your fucking room so I can more or less rape you for an hour so you feel half-worth something?"

"No," Carly said feebly, aching under the weight of her own self-doubt ready to crush Carly and leave Carlotta standing there again, naked and vulnerable and ashamed.. "I-I'm not like that. That wasn't what I'd planned."

"Oh, I beg to differ," the older boy snorted. "Really, look at yourself. The top buttoned halfway down your 2-ply chest speaks for itself. Come on Will, sorry I dragged you here. I'll get Bexi and we can go back to Shelley's. They've got pizza at her house and way better music."

Carly remembered Shelley and her infuriating brilliance, ridiculous independence, terrifying nonchalance and the ability to make Will laugh more so than she ever could.

"He'll catch up with you Sam," Carly said darkly and pulled William over to talk in a small alcove near the stairs because today was now resolution day. She had been running from this moment for years, but now it was here and Carly was going to have to go head-on with her past and reject it, even if it killed her. Otherwise she would have to be Carlotta for the rest of her life.

"So," William said coldly. "Start explaining before I puke."

"Oh come on, don't be so over-dramatic William," Carly snorted. "Everyone changes, it's just..."

"Oh darling, don't insult me, there's changing and then there's this. You look like you should be stood on some street corner... What happened to you?" William scoffed, running a hand through the already tousled blond hair she had ached t

o run her hands through when she was younger, dreamt about it and wondered what would have happened if she had plucked up the courage to tell him. Still her fingers itched to touch it, to touch him and just stop wondering. The whole reason she had re invented herself was so that she never had to sit and wonder again, and could just take what she wanted. Yet, here they were on two sides of the thinnest yet strongest sheet of glass. She couldn't have what she wanted any more, she knew that and instead of miserable it just made her furious at him for turning up here almost taunting her, cracking what had taken years to build in an instant.

"Look, don't ruin this for me," she hissed darkly, pulling William in by his shirt roughly so he could hear. "I'm…I'm popular now. I'm happy! I'm not that weird Carlotta girl with the skulls, the Edgar Allen Poe and the over-sized hand-me-down jumpers. I'm Carly! Fun, bubbly, flirty, cool, happy

"Guys notice me in the street now! Never thought that would happen, did you? Don't say you did either because you and I both know the truth.

"I get phone numbers too, I get sex, God, I get… I get to feel like you used to when you always used to take me out with your older friends 'cause no one else would give me the time of day. You know, worthwhile. Equal."

William had been her best friend – a.k.a the only person who didn't run away - in the year above from her previous secondary school before she was transferred to another school for her A levels after her parents found out about the bullying. It had started off small and irritating, but as time progressed girls used to push her in the corridors and follow her home shouting abuse, text her threats and more often than not…

No, that was in her past now. Se didn't want to remember Carlotta and all that misery and loneliness. She was Carly now and she loved it. She swore she did.

"You make me sick, you know that?"

The words were like a slap to the face.

"Happy?! HAPPY? You're a miserable sight, Do you know that? Not original either,just another carbon-copy barbie doll without a care in the world past 'what shoes can I wear for tonight with this outfit'. There are girls like you everywhere... For God's sake, there are songs about you girls made up out of lies, fairytales and low self-esteem.

"I respected you, Carl'."

"Don't call me that," Carly flinched. That used to be his and his friends' nickname for her, back when she thought it was funny, and would put on a gruff manly voice and pretend her name was Carl to make William laugh and hug her and try and fail at the voice himself. Struck dumb with memories,she let Will carry on.

"You were strong. You were fucking hardcore, kid. You didn't give a shit about anybody but me, you, me, the music and the viewless wings of Poesy. Jesus, when you got knocked about by those ignorant little slags in my year - who you remind me a lot of right now, just so you know - you wore those cuts, black eyes and grazed knees like they were a fashion statement. I'd always feel so bad but you just laughed it off 'cause you knew you were better."

"I was dying on the inside."

"You never let me in, I could have helped. You wouldn't have had to think back and just feel hurt because I would have done something if you hadn't held me back every time."

"I didn't want you to stick your neck out for me, I wasn't worth it."

"What, and you are now?"

Carly didn't want to look into his eyes any more, so she looked around at the drunken scenes around her. All the groping, dancing, screaming, breaking and fun. She was having all that fun just a second ago and now she was sobering up fast and starting to feel sick at this apparition from the past in front of her. She also noticed people had started to watch them, whispering amongst each other and trying to peer at them from across the room.

She grabbed William by the arm and dragged him upstairs into her room, trying her best to ignore all the wolf-whistles and cat calls and 'get in there Charlie'.

"Keeping up appearances, are we?" William sneered as he slammed the bedroom door closed. "Do you want me to make noise, ruffle myself up when I leave so they can see what you got up to with the university boy?"

"Look, Will I'm sorry you're not happy for me but this is it, this is who I am and I love it. I've finally learnt to survive on my own two feet."

"Oh yeah, you're a pillar of strength all right. A blackened, gnarled, twisted pillar covered in vines and over grown weeds sucking the life out of you and everything around it. You used to be so beautiful, Carl'. My older , your friends, loved you because you were a genius and you were so unbelievably cool and didn't give a toss about anyone other than those who mattered.

"It's still true."

"Bollocks, Carly is a man-made construction formed out of lies, wishes, fashion magazines, make up, hair dye and a shallow need to be loved by every single waster in this building that doesn't even know your name. I was told this was some girl called Bailey's party."

"I'm not broken all over any more. I'm safe here, no one can hurt me and I can take what ever I want whenever I want because now I'm pretty and popular and I have friends.

"You're hideous, you're lonely and you have a bunch of kids that don't know who you are."

It was so blunt, real and painful when he spoke that it almost knocked Carly over with the full force of his anger.

"My best friend Carl' isn't here any more. Yeah, I miss her but she's dead now. Not even a funeral, just a quick burial under foundation and a store-bought pop-punk façade because you'd like to think you're still rock but you're just like every other poser who thinks listening to a couple of guitar-driven songs makes them a rebel. You're... Fuck, I don't even know how you justify this!

"I remember pulling apart and analysing Poe's The Valley of Unrest, Elliot's The Wasteland and the entire Fall Out Boy discography on warm summers days in our favourite little coffee shop opposite a Starbucks where we used to eye all the trendy kids who walked out of there looking like they had all been made from the same mould and wonder whether they all came in like that or if there's something in the coffee."

"So you and Shelley can sit on the other side of the road now and watch me and the rest of us Carbon-copy Barbies then?"

"What does Shelley have to do with anything?!" Will demanded.

"Oh don't lie to me, not now," Carly hissed, a snarl curling on her lips as she started to gain some momentum for herself now. "Not after you've stood here and torn me to pieces with every other syllable no, no bullshit from you any more. You and Shelley, there has always been a you and Shelley. From the first moment I met them all, her and Sam and John and Tim and Lily and everyone, there has always been a you and Shelley that little helpless, frumpy, young, naïve and stupid Carlotta couldn't compete with but just wished it would go away! You love her, you've always loved her and maybe it wasn't the bullies that made me this way, maybe it was knowing that I could never have what I wanted while I was still a kid and I had to grow up and become someone completely different. Maybe all this is your fault, how's that for an fucking analysis?!"

"Are you completely blind?!"

Carly moved to answer but she was cut off.

"Rhetorical question, God! Carly, you know every night at the end of our phone conversations I'd always end with "see you tomorrow Carl', love you?"

She nodded, remembering her throat closing up and heart racing with the need to say it back, but always being too scared to lose him.

"I meant it, every time. If you had let me in further...if you had just kept talking to me this would never have happened.

"The very day you moved away I called you, tried to talk to you on MSN, e-mailed you, facebook messaged you, Myspace messaged you... I tried to find your new house, Carl'. I did everything because I wanted to tell you before I never saw you again but you just cut me off. So I guessed you had already found someone else. I thought you didn't care.

"No," All the words about how she had wanted to pick up the phone and speak to him or see him. How she had wrested with conflicting thoughts for hours but had made a heart-wrenching decision that without him and all the problems and miseries of her old school she could start again and fix what she had messed up the first time. How she caught herself staring at old pictures and pining for him so often and how all she wanted was him and she had never stopped loving him. Every word died on her lips because now it was pointless, she had turned into the kind of girl he hated most in the world and she was stuck this way now, for fear of all her hard work coming undone. She was trapped by her desire to be loved now. All she did was sink to her knees, dumbstruck and staring at the ground whilst her eyes filled up with tears.

I missed you so much... I dreamt about seeing you and falling in love again, right there on the spot. Now you're just like every other girl hiding from whom she really is. Desperate to be some perfect by nature icon of self-indulgence. I just... What if maybe..."

He looked down, and she looked up and for a second she saw something inside his eyes crack and he was soft again, about ready to cry and put his arms around her and she hoped do desperately that this could be another chance.

"No, it's dead. So call me when the mourning sets in."

William turned to walk away leaving Carly there, shaken and breathing heavily and head spinning. She couldn't…she didn't… Nothing made sense any more. She thought he would be proud of her for coming out of her shell. She thought he would support her, she had never pictured this scene before her. She couldn't lose him again...

She grabbed his arm before he could walk away and recited to him words that they had eagerly picked apart as he had said, on some of the best days of her life. She let him know sh had never forgotten.

"My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains my sense,

as though of hemlock I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

One minute past,

and Lethe-wards had sunk: 'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,

But being too happy in thine happiness,

That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,

In some melodious plot

Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,

Singest of summer in full-throated ease."

"I know you're still in there Carl'," he said cruelly with a crack in his voice, as if he was talking to the past. "But you, Carly, don't have to dangle her in front of me like some sort of bait. I wouldn't fuck you, nor would I even give you the time of day."

"I'm still her," Carly croaked, throat dry and heart desperate. "This is just who I've grown to be on the outside. Inside I'm still C--"

"No. Don't you ever say that name. It's not yours. Don't ruin the last piece of her memory I have with me." William hissed. "My last memory of a girl I'd dream about, a girl who I was scared would run away if I tried to touch her but I got as close as I could. A girl who, when I'd close my eyes to go to bed at night I could imagine her as"

He didn't finish, and instead pulled his arm away from her and pushed his way out of the door, down the stairs and through the crowd to find Sam and leave Carly behind.

She refused to cry. She simply pulled out a compact, messed up her hair a little and half-stumbled out of the room and back to her friends.

She would make up something sexy. She had to, to keep the vultures at bay.

On her way back someone bumped into her and spilt a beer on her shirt. The girl was smallish with glasses, a beanie over long brown hair and a band t-shirt.

"Watch where you're going, freak," she squawked. "Did I even invite you?!"

"I was here with two guys called William and Samuel, actually. I didn't really want to come myself but I had nothing better to do. But they're leaving, so I'm following them out. They were obviously as sickened as I am," the girl replied, pushing her glasses higher up on her nose. "You must be Carlotta. Huh. Have fun."

Carly just kept moving, ignoring the poltergeist that had just shaken her to the bone and melted so back into her role as drunken hostess it was as if she was really that empty on the inside.

Curled up in the corner of the trashed living room with a half-empty wine bottle, Carlotta felt the sun come up and the mourning set in. She had drunk far too much, as was evident from the vomit on her clothes, in order to forget. But it was still burning bright in her mind with the white-hot intensity of all the stars in the sky.

She stared at the bottle of wine and wondered if that was what her insides looked like. Full of warm red blood leading to nothing but a hole.